The Pensions Act 2008 has placed an obligation on every employer in the UK to add certain staff into a pension scheme and also make contributions into the pension scheme ‘Auto-Enrolment’. It does not matter what business area you operate in, if you employ at least one person, you have certain legal duties toward that employee in respect of pension provision.

The requirement to setup a workplace pension scheme is closely associated with payroll from the requirement to make the correct employee and employer pension payments. Auto-enrolment can seem complicated, time consuming and stressful, so we at Charterhouse have teamed up with St James’ Place Wealth Management and Mo Ladha, an experienced IFA from St James’ Place Wealth Management, to offer a comprehensive service to help our clients setup up the right scheme for their own and their employees' needs while satisfying their legal obligations.

We do recommend that you take professional advice at the earliest opportunity not only to understand and comply with your obligations but also to ensure that you are making the choices that most suit your business and your employees. On numerous occasions we have found that conversations have led to identification of areas in which clients can save money both for the business and personally.

Whether you decide to take professional advice or to go it alone, we have set out below guidance on the various matters that need to be dealt with when considering dealing with your pensions auto-enrolment obligations:-

Step 1: Get ready

Check your staging date and confirm a point of contact with The Pensions Regulator. This should ideally be done four months or more before your staging date. You can check the pensions Regulator website for more information:

Check your staging date

Your staging date is the date when you need to start performing your auto-enrolment duties.

On the staging date you’ll need to have a workplace pension scheme in place. You’ll also need to assess your workforce to see who you need to enroll.

The Pensions Regulator should have written to tell you what your staging date is 12 months beforehand but if you’re unsure, you can find out on their website using the link below.

Find out your staging date:

If you have passed your staging date, do not panic! Get in touch with us straight away and we can help you get back onto the correct path and hopefully avoid penalties.

Step 2: Set up your workplace pension scheme

Make contact with a reputable Pension Advisor to apply for your company pension scheme or available government scheme. You’ll need to make some decisions beforehand (see steps 3-5)

Make some decisions about how much you will contribute

As an employer you have a legal duty to make pension contributions for any ’jobholders’ who are in your pension scheme. You can also make contributions for any entitled workers if you wish – but you don’t have to.

There’s a minimum amount that you’ll need to contribute by law, but you can contribute more if you want to. Before you set up a pension scheme, you’ll need to decide how much you want to contribute.

If you have a Human Resources (HR) advisor, get them involved, paying to a pension not only has financial implications but also affects the overall remuneration paid to employees. We can put you in touch with HR advisors who can assist in this regard if you would like us to.

Step 3: Assess your workforce

What to do

On the staging date, you must check how much each member of staff earns and how old they are. This is called assessing your workforce, and doing it will tell you what your responsibilities are for each employee.

The table below shows the three different categories your employees may fall into, and what your responsibilities are for each.

Annual Salary Age
  16 to 21 22 to state pension age (SPA) SPA to 74
Below £5,824 Must be enrolled if they ask. You’re not obliged to contribute to their pension pot (but you can if you want)
Over £5,824 but no more than £10,000 Non-eligible jobholder
Must be enrolled if they ask. You must contribute to their pension pot.
£10,000 and over Non-eligible jobholder Eligible jobholder
Must be automatically enrolled. You must contribute to their pension pot.
Non-eligible jobholder

This table is accurate for the 2017/18 tax year

Step 4: Add staff into your scheme

What to do

All employees will need to be automatically enrolled into the pension scheme.

Making contributions

Every time you pay staff you’ll need to make contributions into the scheme for any eligible and non-eligible jobholders who are in it. In most cases, your employees will also have to contribute.

Step 5: Write to your staff

Once you’ve assessed your staff, by law you must write to them and explain what's going on.

What you need to do

Within six weeks of your staging date, you must write to all your employees individually to explain how auto-enrolment applies to them. You can do this by letter or email.

Payroll providers like Charterhouse may offer software that can produce these letters or emails for you.

Step 6: Declare your compliance

Five months after you’ve reached your staging date, you must complete a declaration of compliance form on The Pensions Regulator’s website.

This tells the regulator how you have met your legal duties. If you don’t complete it on time or the information you submit isn’t correct, you could be fined. The Pensions Regulator’s website includes a declaration checklist showing all the information you’ll need and where you can get it from.

Step 7: Perform your regular duties

Your auto-enrolment duties don’t end once your staging date has passed. Instead it’s a case of "more of the same", as you’ll basically need to perform steps 3 through to 6 regularly for as long as you continue to employ people.

Assess your staff (every pay period)

Every time you pay an employee who you haven’t needed to automatically enrol before (including new staff members), you’ll need to assess them – just as you did on your staging date.

If any employees are now eligible jobholders you’ll need to either automatically enrol them into your scheme or use postponement.

Employees are most likely to become eligible when their pay changes or they pass their 22nd birthday. You must then write to these employees within six weeks of when they were assessed.

Adding staff to your scheme

Anyone who’s been assessed as an eligible jobholder will need to be automatically enrolled into your scheme unless you’re using postponement. You’ll also need to remember to enroll any employees who’ve asked to join your scheme too.

You would do this in the same way as described in step 4.

If employees ask to join your scheme (as opposed to being automatically enrolled), they should be entered into it at the start of the next pay period.

Dealing with employees who opt out of your scheme

If any of your staff who have been automatically enrolled choose to leave your scheme within a month of being entered into it, it’s called ’opting out’.

Within one month of their request, you have to remove them from your scheme, stop taking contributions from their pay and arrange a full refund of what they’ve paid to date. If they ask to leave the scheme after this date any payments already made will remain in the pension plan.

We’ll provide full support, explaining how to do this once you’ve applied to set up your scheme.


Make pension contributions

As we mentioned in step 4, every time you pay your staff you’ll need to calculate how much to contribute for any eligible and non-eligible jobholders who are in your scheme (plus any entitled workers, if you’ve chosen to pay for them).

Step 8: Other tasks you’ll need to perform


Along with the regular tasks you’ll need to perform, there are a few other activities you’ll need to keep on top of.

Keep records (on-going)

By law, you must keep records of how you’ve met your legal duties. These include the names and addresses of those you’ve put into your pension scheme records showing when money was paid into your pension scheme records of any requests to join or leave your pension scheme your pension scheme reference number.

You must keep these records for six years, except for requests to leave the pension scheme, which you’ll need to keep for four years.

Re-certify (at least every 18 months)

If you’re calculating your pension contributions based on something other than qualifying earnings, you’ll need to complete a certificate at least every 18 months. The purpose of doing this is to tell The Pensions Regulator that you’re paying at least the minimum contribution levels required by law.

You can find a template for the certificate you need to fill out in this Department for Work and Pensions guide.

Re-enrolment (every three years)

Around the third anniversary of your staging date, you’ll need to repeat some of the duties you performed on it. This is called automatic re-enrolment. Basically, you must make sure any eligible jobholder who’ve previously opted out of your scheme are put back into it.

You’ll have three months either side of the third anniversary of your staging date in which to choose your re-enrolment date. This gives you six months in which you can choose a re-enrolment date, but you must have the same one for all staff you have to re-enrol.

Charterhouse Auto-enrolment Plan

Charterhouse has extensive knowledge of the operation of pensions auto-enrolment. We have walked numerous clients down the road of satisfying their pensions auto-enrolment obligations. No matter how complex your questions, please do not hesitate to contact Elaine Lynch or Paula Smith (or one of the directors) to discuss how Charterhouse can take over the burden of your obligations and leave you to concentrate on what you do best which is running your business. You will find our contact emails at the bottom of this newsletter.


Charterhouse is delighted to announce the appointment of an HR Director, Claudia Ackenson.  As an innovative and progressive accountancy practice, Charterhouse is committed to growth through its people at its Harrow and Beaconsfield offices. By adding HR to its c-suite, Charterhouse has enabled the creation of an engagement and growth strategy through personnel policies and procedures that are driven throughout the business from board level down.

Claudia worked internally as an HR Manager for Charterhouse for 5 years before becoming a consultant to the firm for the past two years. This work has contributed to the firm’s two recent award nominations for Practice Growth of the Year 2016 and as a finalist in the Accountancy Age Best Employer Awards 2016, as well as its recent recognition as a Top One Hundred accountancy firm.  
Says Claudia; “Part of my HR work with Charterhouse is to ensure that the development and growth of our staff at both offices is in line with our corporate vision so that their customer care skills become as exemplary as their core competencies.  This is an innovative approach for an accountancy firm of the size of Charterhouse and is a great example of how we deliver Big Four service as a small practice.  We believe anything is possible so when our clients have a problem we’ve enabled our staff to deliver the creativity and determination to keep looking until we’ve solved it for them.

“My creative mindset and way of working is inspired by companies such as Apple and other innovators globally so that the staff at Charterhouse can offer professional advice which is adapted to the needs of the different generations of businesses who come to us.  My vision is to create a working environment based on ways of working which generate results and by involving every member of staff at Charterhouse, I am looking forward to inspiring everyone who works with us to help our clients operate at their optimum level.”

David White, Director at Charterhouse Accountants, says, “We offer high level bold advice which embraces all aspects of business and personal financial affairs and having access to professional, innovative HR advice has proved a great benefit to our corporate and SME clients alike.  We use our own HR service and Claudia’s board appointment is an external recognition of the importance we place on staff development and the results it has delivered to us as a business and to our clients. The HR service provided by Claudia has been instrumental in enabling our staff to become professional partners with our clients to advise them on how to develop their businesses and aim higher.   

“We were delighted when the ICAEW (The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) commended us on our internal personal development initiative for employees and the leadership team.  The feedback we receive from our clients on how they feel we are an integral part of their teams completes the circle for us to continue making the development of our people a key business priority through creative HR strategies.” 
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